Raising My Twins

It's what's on my mind.

The Graham Cracker Chronicles

I’m not the first to attempt this. Google “homemade graham crackers” and you will get many versions, some claiming that you need to look no further…so-and-so has got it all figured out. Well, in my humble opinion…they have not. Shockingly, every version I saw online starts with butter, and a lot of it! (*Buzzer noise*) No way. Graham crackers would never have butter. Sorry, gourmands…peddle your moist, rich cookies elsewhere. Graham crackers’ signature feature is their dry crispness.

Round One. Aren’t these gorgeous? Yep…far too good to be considered graham crackers.

Having just enough baking theory under my belt to be dangerous (but probably woefully inept), I did something I’ve dreamed of doing: I consulted the box of Organic Erewhon graham crackers and wrote down the ingredients as a starting point to my own concoction. They were: wheat flour (which means white ’cause it’s not “whole”), whole wheat graham flour, dried cane syrup, vegetable oils (safflower or sunflower), honey, molasses, leavening (baking soda, ammonium bicarbonate), sea salt, cream of tartar. These differ only slightly from the box of Honey Grahams everyone has in their cupboard.

I compiled dry and wet ingredients separately, using all whole wheat flour—half regular whole wheat, and half whole wheat pastry flour. They are made from different types of wheat. The regular whole wheat flour is as close to graham flour (more coarsely milled) as I could get with organic ingredients, and it turns out to be just fine. I chose coconut oil and guessing high at 1/2 cup (for 2 cups of flour). I used regular sugar and only a tiny bit of molasses due to an earlier experiment which told me too much molasses can change the personality of a cookie quickly.

Knowing that I wanted these to aerate as much as possible to get crispy, and noting that the boxed crackers used ammonium bicarbonate, a.k.a. hartshorn, I investigated getting some of that, but thought that the irritating ammonia gases produced during baking might not be something I’d want in the house with the girls. I haven’t totally ruled it out though for future experimenting. I could bake with it while they are napping, perhaps. Hartshorn is apparently still the leavening of choice for certain crispy European and Scandinavian cookies, but is harder to find here in the U.S.

I ended up adding a significant amount of water to the dough to mix it well. The dough was greasy (I knew I had too much oil to begin with!) but rolled out nicely and produced delicious cookies with a graham-crackery flavor, but of course way too moist and cookie-like!

Round Two. Not as photogenic but they are far closer to real graham crackers in flavor and texture.

Second round I subbed in brown sugar for the white sugar + molasses, as the original molasses amount (1/2 teaspoon) was so scant anyway, it’s actually hard to measure less. I changed the leavenings, reduced the oil to 3 tablespoons and increased water to 1/2 cup. I rolled them thinner, reduced the oven temp and the results were much closer: even more authentic graham cracker flavor, but still too moist and/or chewy, depending on oven time.

Still working on it! As of July 2016, this post was a draft laying around for years now. Thought I’d throw it up there, but sorry…don’t have the final recipe yet.

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Update On Four Meals, and a Recipe

We’ve been adhering to a four-meal-per-day system for over a month now (read this post to see why we started it) and I have to say, it’s been a huge success. Not only is it easier for me to plan and serve four meals, rather than 3 meals plus 2 snacks (seems not a big difference, but it is…what can I say?) but the girls are hungrier at each meal, and so they eat more with less fuss.

I do not force anything on them. I give them three to four choices. Often they won’t eat one of them, and that’s okay. Because like every mom, I do have some go-to meals that I know give them their needed nutrition. This helps me to relax when they eat NO dinner, and that happens at least once a week because they don’t like what we’re eating (falafel, anyone?) Rachel always tries the food now, which is fun and encouraging, and if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t eat more. Audrey will still size things up by how they look and sometimes reject without trying. But she’s slowly getting more willing to have a taste.

Dinner is always with us at the “dining room” table (it’s in the living room). And for this last meal, I’ve continued to offer whatever we eat to the girls, with occasional exceptions…lately we’ve eaten a lot of salads, and I don’t expect 22-month olds to eat those, so I offer them some components of the salad, like chicken and avocado, with, say, a quesadilla. At the end of every meal they get milk, in a regular, open cup. They love this part. They are getting really skilled at drinking this way. Rachel didn’t spill a drop of her OJ this morning!

Since starting the four-meal days, trips to restaurants are less stressful—they know what is happening (high chair always means meal time) and they are considerably more patient, as well as attentive to their food. It’s amazing! Truthfully, we have only put this to the test once since the last post, I think, but still…it was a good experience. They were amazingly well-behaved, and it was a somewhat-lingering dinner at our friends’ restaurant.

So the early benefits have lasted. I’m completely sold on it. Oh, one other thing: it matches with my philosophy of showing the girls that every family member’s needs and time are important. They are old enough to wait for their meals to come at predictable times, not demand that mom drop everything and get them a snack. (Not that they did that before, but they are under 2, and eating all day would seem to cultivate an appetite for immediate gratification eventually, and that’s something I don’t want them to grapple with any more than necessary.)

And now, here are some fun food standbys that make my life easier.

Rachel scarfs some "Half and Half Soup." Here's a tip on boxed organic soups: Imagine Foods has the lowest sugar content by far...much lower than Amy's.

The first is “half and half soup”—a lazy creation of mine that I think is fun. The girls like tomato soup by itself but they don’t like butternut squash soup as much, for instance. So I started getting them to eat a bit more of the latter by pouring yogurt on one side of the bowl and the soup on the other. And now I do this for tomato too, to cut the sodium down and give them more calcium and protein. And here’s the best part: I serve it cold…so I pour the sides simultaneously right out of the refrigerated cartons. So easy for mom!

And below is my recipe for Zucchini-Banana Bread (AllRecipes link—easier to print), which is quite beloved by my family and friends. I wanted a good snack to give the babes when they started eating solids, that didn’t contain too much sugar and did contain some protein, iron and vitamins. So I made batch after batch of zucchini bread with various modifications until I got some I really loved, and the girls always go for it. Now I usually make it in large batches of muffins and freeze them individually. It is lightly sweetened with molasses and bananas, and it’s egg-free (but not vegan) because little Audrey gets hives from eggs, sadly.

Often I make this lower fat by substituting apple sauce for half of the canola oil, and that’s how I’ll regularly make them when the girls are older. Also, if you don’t have that much zucchini, shredded carrot works great too!

Zucchini-Banana Muffins the whole family loves!

Low-Sugar Zucchini-Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup whole milk yogurt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated zucchini

Directions

  1. Grease two 8 x 4 inch pans, or 4 mini loaf pans, or muffin tins. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon together.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, mashed bananas, molasses, yogurt and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Fold in zucchini and pour into pans.
  5. Bake for 50–55 minutes for 8 x 4 inch pans, 40–45 for mini-loaf pans. 25 minutes for muffins.
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